There’s been plenty of interesting news spilling out of Sundance - yep, I can’t believe there’s a film with a farting corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe either - but a blood spattered announcement from Ubisoft earlier this week might just be the start of some of the most horrifying virtual reality experiences you can imagine.
The studio is pairing up with SpectreVision. That’s the production company founded by Elijah Wood that specialises in horror and just happens to be responsible for equally vile and hilarious The Greasy Strangler that premiered this week - check out our review where we call it a film that “resembles something John Waters might dream after dining on too much dairy”. If Ubisoft wants to traumatise anyone who puts on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset, it’s chosen a partner wisely.
Horror and VR are simultaneously a perfect pairing and an utterly galling one. A crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, if you will, where the jam looks a lot like it might be O negative and... oh God, are those teeth? In SpectreVision’s case, they’re most certainly molars, and Ubi has signed up for the team to create interactive virtual reality content alongside its Montreal based FunHouse Studio.
There’s no doubt that they’re working on horror either. Ubi Montreal Vice President Patrick Plourde has said that VR scares are exactly what the collaboration is focussing on. “We’re thrilled to be working with the team at SpectreVision on an interactive VR experience,” he confirmed. “Their expertise in the horror film genre is exciting for us as a developer of interactive entertainment and we’re looking forward to a collaboration that will ultimately offer fans an unforgettable virtual reality experience.”
How will this unforgettable experience look? Well you only need to take a gander at SpectreVision’s back catalogue to see it’s doing interesting things with scares. 2014’s Cooties is a comedy laden high school gorefest but, much more interestingly, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a clever vampire movie that smartly rearranges the rules of the blood hungry genre.
This is a team who isn’t afraid to subvert horror and while something like The Greasy Strangler sounds big and stupid, finding a way to make audiences both laugh and scream is actually no mean feat. For every Scream, there’s a Cursed. Laughing and shielding your eyes at the same time is a unique experience, and literally putting your head in SpectreVision’s loving care could prove problematic for your psyche.
Ubi is already dabbling in virtual reality. It’s announced the very pretty Eagle Flight for PC and PS4 where we’ll fly through the skies fifty years after humanity has disappeared from Earth but Friday the 13th it ain’t. Horror will be a welcome addition to the line-up. Plus, the way SpectreVision CEO tells it, there will be more than one offering from the collaboration.
After praising Ubi’s varied portfolio of games, Lisa Whalen says “together, we can tell an infinite number of unique stories in a bold and original new format.” It might be pipe dreams but an anthology of miniature live action VR horror experiences packaged up together would be a perfect combo of tech and a tight narrative.
Imagine a VR version of the horror movie VHS or even The ABCs Of Death and we could be in for a set of fully immersive frightfests to play havoc with our mental states. Think about Capcom’s Kitchen tech demo. It’s white knuckle inducing enough as it is as it stabs you in the virtual leg and teases you with a pixelated horrifying creature. Take away the graphics and set it in very real life and virtual reality can grow exceptionally terrifying legs. You can run, but I hear that a slow walk is all it needs. VR might be more like FR before we know it.
Image credits: Lionsgate, VICE Films